Michigan is a purple state where the middle matters.
While political analysts love to focus on the sharp differences between Republican and Democratic voters, they all too often choose to ignore the essential truth of Michigan politics: The roughly 20% of voters that do not affiliate with either party – independent voters – are Michigan’s decision makers.
While Republican and Democratic voters often disagree, independent voters are the arbiters of Michigan policy. In our polling for the Detroit Regional Chamber, those voters regularly tell us they want Michigan to focus right down the center on nuts-and-bolts issues important to Michigan families.
Right now, independent voters say inflation and the economy are their top concern with 95% of them concerned about inflation, particularly food prices.
Voters were asked which of six Democratic priorities, the Michigan Legislature should tackle first in 2023. 30.1% of independent voters said gun control including background checks and red flag laws. 17.1% said increased worker training. 14.6% said repealing the retirement tax. 12.2% said fighting for more jobs. 7.3% said repealing the abortion ban. 5.7% said repealing right to work. And 2.4% said passing a LGBTQ non-discrimination law.
Polling Shows Independents Nearly Always Gravitate to Center
Our polling repeatedly indicates these independent voters nearly always gravitate toward centrist issues. On gun control issues, 92% of independents support background checks for gun purchases – a powerful indication of where the middle is on this issue.
Take the 2022 election. 89% of independent voters approve of the process by which they cast their vote. 77% of independent voters approve of how Michigan handled the election. 76% said the election was fair. 81% said the results were accurate. We saw throughout our polling in 2022 that these crucial independent voters trusted the election process, supported making it easier to vote, and wanted nothing to do with relitigating the 2020 election.
On policy, where independent voters stand is reflective of where Michigan stands overall. 66% of independent voters supported Proposal 1 which updated term limits and included personal disclosure reform. 63% of independent voters supported expanded voting methods under Proposal 2. And 56% of independent voters supported passage of Proposal 3.
If those numbers look familiar, it is because those percentages from independent voters reflect nearly the exact final percentage of the proposals themselves. Again, independent voters make Michigan’s decisions.
Independents Want No Part of Culture Wars
In this era of political polarization focused on culture wars, independent voters have their own message. Independent voters want nothing to do with culture wars. They want leaders who work with the other side to get things done.
This fact is not new.
In the midst of culture battles, independent voters seek out centrist positions like abortion exceptions for rape and incest, oppose defunding the police, want nothing to do with banning books, and generally reject attacks demonizing neighbors.
What they are really after is getting things done. Building a better economy. Better education. More training opportunities. Expanding opportunities for everyone. Fixing the darn roads (paying for them is a different story). Making sure political leaders are in touch with their concerns so that their decisions help their lives, not hurt their lives.
None of this is new.
So why do we continue to spend so much time focused on the extremes when it is the middle that is so important in Michigan?